Pictured are conifer trees. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
Pictured are conifer trees. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

VAN WERT – Local Van Wert County OSU extension educator Curtis Young has put together research identifying common conifer trees familiar to this area.

“Pine, spruce and fir, are all types of genera, of medium to tall, 60 to 200 feet, evergreen, needle-bearing, cone-producing trees that have a conical or pyramidal shape,” said Young. “Collectively, they are called conifers because of their cone production. Conifers are commonly found growing in Ohio landscape and several species are used as Christmas trees.

“To the casual observer, these trees look similar, but they belong to different genera,” continued Young. “Homeowners, landowners, and consumers often get these trees confused and even some well-versed gardeners have difficulties keeping them straight.”

Young emphasized that it is very important to be able to identify these trees to understand where they will grow well, how to take good care of them and, when needed, how to diagnose why they might be ailing.

“To distinguish pine, spruce and fir from one another, start by looking at their needles,” said Young. “The following characteristics should be noted: are the needles attached to the branches singularly or in groups, or if singularly, is each needle attached directly to the branch by way of a wooden peg or are the needles flat?”

Young said that the characteristic of having needles in bundles is unique to the pines and immediately separates them from the spruces or firs, which present their needles on the branches singularly. Spruce needles, on the other hand, tend to be stiff and sharply pointed making them somewhat unpleasant to work around when doing yardwork, pruning or removal or decorating. Spruce needles easily roll between one’s fingers and have a distinctive square shape.

“Fir needles lack pegs and thus the branches are not rough after the needles are shed. The base of the fir needle is expanded into a round base giving the needle the appearance of a suction-cup dart," said Young. “When the needle is pulled off the branch or is naturally shed, a small, circular leaf scar is left behind. Fir needles give off a citrusy scent when crushed, which is a desirable aroma around candles.”

Young said that common pines in Ohio include Austrian pine, eastern white pine, loblolly pine, Swiss mountain pine, red pine, Scotch pine, and Virginia pine.

Common spruces in Ohio include Colorado spruce, Norway spruce, and white spruce.

“Fir trees are not as common in Ohio as spruce and pine,” observed Young. “However, they are often grown as Christmas trees. The most common firs in Ohio include balsam fir, Fraser fir, and white fir.”